GLENDALE, Ariz. – The collapse was as dramatic as it was baffling.
Propped up by a two-goal lead and looking like it could cruise to another blowout if it kept up its pace, the Wild became discombobulated in the second period and could never recover — getting rolled 5-2 by the Coyotes on Saturday in front of 3,141 at Gila River Arena to split the series and wrap up its road trip 1-2-1.
"Back-to-backs, it's always will over skill," Ian Cole said. "I think we tried to maybe skill our way through it a little bit tonight. Didn't have enough will."
Fatigue also seemed to be a factor, with the Wild getting overwhelmed at times by the same Coyotes squad that the team creamed 5-1 the previous night.
This was the Wild's fourth game of the week and sixth in nine days, and the rigors of that schedule appeared to show itself when Arizona seized control.
After two goals in the second period erased their deficit, the Coyotes snapped a 2-2 tie with a power-play goal from Conor Garland 3 minutes, 57 seconds into the third period before Lino Lakes' Tyler Pitlick added to that cushion with a pair of goals. Cam Talbot made 25 saves, and former Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper had 32 in his first game back from a lower-body injury.
"We didn't have the energy, not even the physical energy [but] just the emotional energy tonight that we've seen from our group," coach Dean Evason said. "When they got back into it, we never had that pushback and that life."
The Wild did have some jump early; a pinching Matt Dumba buried a bouncing puck at 14:20 of the first period and only 52 seconds after that, Jordan Greenway scored his second goal in as many games with a shot off the rush through traffic that eluded Kuemper. Greenway has seven points in his last six games.
But a different team emerged for the second period, one that looked scrambly.
At 1:25, Arizona started its comeback after Lawson Crouse deposited a rebound behind Talbot.
On an ensuing Wild power play, Dumba collided with captain Jared Spurgeon trying to enter the offensive zone and the Coyotes' Christian Fischer went the other way on a breakaway that Talbot stopped.
But the Wild got even more out of sorts after that, and Arizona took advantage — tying the score at 2 by 13:32 when Jakob Chychrun's point shot clipped off Cole and sailed by Talbot during a delayed Wild penalty.
"We kind of let them dictate the play," Talbot said.
The Coyotes continued to pressure the Wild, which looked absolutely frazzled as arizona played keep away. After a tripping penalty to Cole, the period mercifully came to an end for the Wild, but the team was back on the penalty kill not long after Cole returned and that's when the Coyotes began to pull away for good.
"We can usually get to pucks and get to people and get pucks out of there," Evason said. "But we just couldn't tonight. We just didn't have enough to get it done."
After Garland's go-ahead goal, Pitlick scored on a deflection at 6:15 of the third before adding an empty-netter with 47 seconds to go. Arizona went 1-for-4 with the man advantage, while the 0-for-2 Wild sunk deeper into its slump. Overall, the unit is scoreless in its last 17 chances and remains last in the NHL, one of a handful issues on the night the team couldn't correct.
"Were we tired tonight? Yeah, maybe," Cole said. "But they played last night, too. We really had no excuse there. If we're tired and fatigued, we need to play smarter."